Next iPhone May Feature AR via New OLED Screen

Apple may announce big changes for the next iPhone.

Although we’re still several months away from the release of the next iPhone, rumors are always circulating, and what’s next might be really exciting. There’s reason to think the next iPhone will also bring augmented reality (AR) to the masses.

If you trust the rumor mill, the next iPhone will be a showstopper. There are rumors of a glass back and steel frame. An Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) screen may replace the Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) technology that Apple has defaulted to since the device’s inception. The new display may also fill the entire front of the phone.

Because OLED has a smaller physical footprint than LCD, analysts believe there will be more room for a larger battery inside the next iPhone, as well. We can also expect a new A-series fusion processor, and perhaps evolved sensors as well more RAM and new memory options.

Apple has never been shy about trying to make its devices slimmer, so a smaller device packing heavier specs seems like a no-brainer. But the company has also never been overly concerned about packing larger batteries into its devices, either. The iPhone 6 had an 1810mAh power source, while the 6S had a 1715mAh battery. The iPhone 7 fared better at 1960mAh, but many wished Apple had just made the device a touch larger and included a bigger power source.

Between the OLED and steel frame, it’s entirely possible the next iPhone will be little more than a screen with a slight camera bulge on the back. Apple would have to recreate its entire manufacturing process to suit an even more svelte device, and it’s not clear the company is willing to give up its newer form factor just yet.

Will Apple give developers access to AR features for Maps and other iPhone apps?

Apple, iPhone OLED and AR Apps

In normal scenarios, the power consumption of OLED and LCD is comparable. The type of onscreen activity can sway the figures slightly one way or another, but tests typically show the difference is minimal (still, we should expect Apple to claim big gains in power consumption for an OLED screen if it goes that route).

What is a drain on a battery is augmented reality. As we saw when people started feverishly playing “Pokemon Go,” using a combination of GPS data, a phone’s camera and AR eats your battery alive. This is what makes the iPhone’s purported larger battery so intriguing.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has been complimentary of AR on several occasions, suggesting it’s one of Apple’s next big moves. The last time he spoke so highly of mobile technology with such frequency, we got the Apple Watch, which changed the wearable paradigm.

How Apple will take advantage of AR remains to be seen, but there are some underpinnings that suggest it will be a day-to-day thing you’ll use often.

Yelp once had a feature called ‘Monocle’ that was basically the first iPhone AR app. Like “Pokemon Go,” it used your location and camera info to display local restaurant reviews as if they were banners outside of the location. It was wonky, but that was also 2009 – everything was clumsy, compared to today.

Apple has been diligently building its own map data, driving around the country (maybe the globe!) in vans fitted with mapping technology. If you believe the speculation, that work was for Apple’s car project, but it could also mean AR is coming to Maps. If Apple has captured enough real-world imaging data fast enough, the next version of Maps may have its own AR layer, much like Yelp once had.

And it could lead to some interesting stuff we’re not considering. Point the camera at an item your device recognizes, and it might overlay an app icon you can tap to open. That would be useful around the home; point your camera at an Ecobee thermostat, and the app opens to let you change the temperature.

Similarly, shopping could become more contextual. Point your camera at something you want in a store, and an app may display pricing from online retailers. It’s possible to see the camera becoming much like iMessage, which now has stickers and apps deep-linking to it. With an accompanying API, Apple could allow an unending slew of retailers to compete directly on-screen for sales.

Apple recently purchased several AR-related companies, including Metaio, for an undisclosed sum. Apple’s plans for AR reportedly encouraged Metaio to sell for below its market value, suggesting its vision wowed a company working on AR full-time. It might be game-changing stuff that Apple is working on.

The ‘iPhone 8’ story right now is all about OLED, as it’s a shift from the normal routine for iOS devices. Apple won’t compromise on its screen quality, and its dedication to the P3 color gamut suggests OLED will be every bit as good (or better) than LCD. But if that also brings a bigger battery, we should expect that new screen to do some dynamic things with AR. It may even come with its own headset, which could change the AR (and maybe VR) market forever.

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